As the saying goes, you have to love yourself to love others. Loving yourself means respecting yourself, accepting your flaws and the mistakes you’ve made, and seeing yourself as worthy of being loved by others. It also means looking after your wellbeing and not neglecting the things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. How to get started This is easier said than done though as many of us struggle to love and accept ourselves even for a few moments, let alone all the time.  So here are some tips to help get you started: Think about your strengths It may not always be easy, but try to concentrate on the things you do well rather than the things you don’t excel in or the mistakes you’ve made. In fact, try to consciously forgive yourself for your mistakes, especially if you find yourself thinking frequently about the poor choices you may have made. When you’re feeling positive, make a list of your strengths and keep it somewhere you’ll see it often and then go back to the list whenever you feel insecure about yourself.  Look after yourself Sometimes we work so hard at looking after others, we neglect our own wellbeing needs. But it’s important to eat healthily, to exercise and get plenty of sleep, and to take steps to look after our mental health. Start by doing one small thing a day that will help boost your mental or physical wellbeing – you don’t have to make radical changes all at once to reap big benefits. Stop comparing Try removing yourself from toxic friendships or from someone who demeans you and your achievements. Instead, surround yourself with positive and supportive people. These are the people who will help you feel good about yourself, as opposed to those who are over-critical and negative. Treat yourself like someone you love If you tend to be hard on yourself a lot of the time, try giving yourself a break and being kind rather than your harshest critic. Remind yourself that nobody is perfect, so you shouldn’t expect to be either. Think what you would do or say if a close friend needed some support, then try doing the same for yourself. Have a social media detox According to the average person spends more than five years of their life on social media. Yet studies suggest using social media to such an extent can often cause stress, anxiety and low mood. This can be further highlighted when we use social media to compare ourselves to others. This can then lead to a feeling that we’re missing out. If you spend a lot of time on social media, it may be a good idea to do something about it. Try taking a complete break, or at least switch off your notifications to see if it helps you cut down on your social media use. Be selfish once in a while When you’re busy doing things for other people, you may forget to do things for yourself. But it’s okay to be selfish every now and then. Try doing just one little thing for yourself today that doesn’t involve making anyone else happy or tending to their needs. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 21, 2019
Personal Development

Acknowledging our vulnerabilities and improving our self-awareness can allow us to succeed in our personal and professional lives. “What are your strengths and weaknesses” is a question frequently asked at interviews and one that interviewees are often least prepared to answer. While few have difficulty rhyming off strengths, describing one’s weaknesses or vulnerabilities is another matter. Doing so requires a level of disclosure that few of us are willing to make to ourselves, much less to others.  As Abraham Maslow, American psychologist who is known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, said, “We tend to be afraid of any knowledge that would cause us…to make us feel inferior, weak…We protect ourselves and our ideal image of ourselves by repression and similar defences”. However, research shows that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. We connect to others through vulnerabilities. They are key to our self-awareness and how we manage ourselves socially.  This article is designed to equip you with some means to identify and explore those vulnerabilities and improve your self-awareness.     Focus on the here and now Begin with noticing and self-reflecting. When interacting with others, you should slow yourself down and take notice of your emotions, thoughts and behaviours as situations unfold. Try to concentrate on what is happening to you in the moment. Studies show that we are able to concentrate on up to four voices at one time. One of those voices should be our own.  The ability to focus on the present can and should be practiced regularly by using mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness is simply concentrating on the present moment and focusing on one element to keep you in that moment, such as your breathing. Through mindfulness practice, we learn not to engage with passing thoughts but rather to observe them and take notice of recurring negative thoughts that may be affecting us. By practicing mindfulness privately, we develop skills that we can call on to ground ourselves when we feel stressed or unfocused. These skills help us to avoid being distracted by anticipatory thoughts and give us the ability to stay focused when circumstances demand.  Numerous apps are available to help develop or improve concentration skills. Headspace is one such option. Thinking errors How do we identify emotional or cognitive barriers to self-awareness? Be on the lookout for ‘thinking errors’ in your internal dialogues. These are harmful thinking patterns that may habitually hold us hostage so that we behave at the will of others or as victims of circumstance. Some examples of these include: ‘Awfulisation’: “That was the worst interview ever. I was awful.”; Blame-throwing: “It’s all his fault, he should have highlighted the difference.”; Demands: “He has to listen to me because this report is late”, “She should have pointed that out, she knew it was important.”; Extreme thinking: “she never listens”, “he’s always late” Globalising: “I failed my exam. That proves I’m a failure.”; Personalisation: “If I ask my manager for support, he’ll think I’m incompetent”. Such thinking errors should be intercepted and challenged by considering their usefulness. Are these beliefs helpful? Are they true? Is there evidence to support them?  Group dynamics While mindful meditation and self-reflection are useful tools for improving self-awareness, our reflection in other people is more informative. When working in a team, it is important to stay aware of how others react to our behaviours. Noticing such reactions provides us with valuable feedback. Active listening and observation can help us to recognise and then adjust any negative behaviours of our own.  A simple tool called the PFAT scan can help here. With it, we pay attention to: physical body reactions in other members of the group. Are they blushing, sweating, fidgeting, clenching their teeth or fists? others’ feelings suggested through their mannerisms or behaviours. Are they defensive, anxious, worried, bored, tense, challenged, or angry? the appearance of negative body language. Are they retreating or lunging forward? Are they stammering or yelling?; and  where their thoughts are focused. Are they speaking on task or are they defending their position, discrediting others, and redeeming themselves?    To gain greater insight into our relational habits, we should pay attention to group dynamics, focusing not only on how we think and what we observe but also on how we feel during teamwork or group work. Certain situations or people may trigger negative reactions within us. We may discover that what we are experiencing is the mirroring of past behavioural patterns seen in close family members. We should also seek feedback from trusted people seniors in your company and peers. Receiving such feedback openly and sharing our vulnerabilities can prove edifying. By accepting our vulnerabilities with reasonable self-compassion, we can start to accommodate them and to build on our strengths. March EI exercise Practice mindfulness and the reflective exercises described in this article.  Paul Price is is an Executive Coach at Dynamic Connections.

Mar 06, 2018
Personal Development

Don’t be known as the office gossip. Instead, cultivate a reputation as a ‘straight arrow’ with these seven simple tips. People love to talk; it’s one of those universal truths that you just have to accept. Professionals will always have clear boundaries, however, and in many cases express their frustrations and views outside the office with family and personal friends only. But even with the best of intentions, you can sometimes find yourself in the midst of a questionable conversation without even knowing how you got there! Whether you find yourself in such a conversation, or know that the office gossip wants to engage you in some office chit-chat, these tips will help you extricate yourself from the conversation or – if you’d rather deal with the situation head on – shut the office gossip down. 1. Get moving When the topic of conversation shifts from a project’s deadline to the annoying habits of the project manager, it’s no longer in the professional realm. In this scenario, the easiest solution is to make your excuses and leave. Something simple like: “Sorry, but I need to get back to my desk. I’ve a call in five minutes” removes you immediately and, if done on a recurring basis, gives the gossiper a clear but covert message that this isn’t a conversation you’re willing to have. 2. Pivot! Ross from Friends was a massive fan of the pivot, and it can be a great asset in the office too. When you’re drawn into an uncomfortable conversation, take the lead and steer it in a more professional direction. For example, if a colleague is moaning about his manager’s perceived obsession with one-to-one meetings, bring it back to a work-related task by saying something like: “Actually, that reminds me. I’ve been meaning to talk to Alfie about the production schedule. Have you seen him today?” This gives you the opportunity to change the topic of conversation in a gentle, subtle way. 3. Stay positive If walking away or changing the subject seems too genteel, challenge the gossiper’s accusations. Saying something along the lines of: “Oh I’m sure that was just a one-off. I’ve worked with Jane on several projects and never had a bad encounter with her” allows you to challenge the gossiper’s generalised assumption and also, raises the possibility that you are close to Jane in a professional capacity. In both cases, you’re refusing to be drawn into a negative conversation about a colleague, which is the desired outcome. 4. Look for the facts A more challenging approach involves dissecting the gossiper’s logic and rationale. Simple, probing questions such as “What led you to that conclusion?” can force the gossiper into the uncomfortable act of introspection – dissecting their own thoughts and actions rather than those of their colleagues. It also diminishes the power of broad-stroke statements, which gossipers usually expect to be taken as truth by their comrades in conversation. Once a gossiper has to justify their thoughts and statements, much of the fun evaporates and – with any luck – you will no longer be seen as an open ear or easy target. 5. Avoid trigger words Sometimes, we unthinkingly cultivate gossip by saying certain words or raising certain subjects that spark ire in the person you’re talking to. You will need to be aware of the broader office politics to avoid this unfortunate calamity, so be aware of what’s going on around you without getting involved. Know the people and issues causing ripples in your working environment and, to the greatest extent possible, avoid mentioning them. If you must discuss an emotive issue, use the tactics discussed above to steer the conversation and prevent it descending into farce. 6. Shine the spotlight It’s often said that people love talking about themselves. It’s their specialism, in a sense. So if you’re struggling to walk away, change the topic or challenge the gossiper, simply get them talking about themselves. This usually results in a more positive tone! It’s a variation of the pivot point above so listen carefully, plan your interjection and at the right time, bring the story back to your colleague. 7. Choose carefully Lastly, choose your work friends with care. While you might not partake in gossip, it can be easy for others to tar you with the same brush if you hang out with those who are widely known as the office gossips. It’s best to have a wide circle of professional acquaintances and maintain a professional distance, unless you know that you can trust the person 100%. You should also find positive role models, observe their behaviours and mimic them where appropriate. Associating with those who have positive reputations can protect you from becoming guilty by association. Conclusion As a Chartered Accountant, you are expected to hold yourself to the highest standards of ethics and integrity in all aspects of your working life. Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid those who revel in drama but even so, you have a duty – to yourself and the organisation you work for – to take pride in your professionalism and set a good example for those that follow. And don’t think it will go unnoticed. Those who can navigate office gossip without getting drawn in demonstrate a degree of nous and tact that employers look for in future leaders.

Nov 01, 2016